MachineMetrics, which delivers industrial data to improve manufacturing performance through autonomous machining, today announced that it has raised Series B funding of $20 million. The Northampton, Mass.-based company said it plans to use the financing to scale its platform globally.
“Manufacturing is on the brink of a digital renaissance,” stated Bill Bither, co-founder and CEO of MachineMetrics. “The intersection of software, big data, and physical machinery is the next frontier for manufacturing and a proven solution for overcoming the production and labor shortages we are experiencing right now.”
“Today’s industrial machines are inefficient because they require significant human intervention to operate,” he added. “MachineMetrics makes it easy to harness data from these machines and lays the foundation for the factory of the future where machines operate autonomously and with predictability.”
Automating data collection
Global capacity challenges underscore the urgency to improve manufacturing productivity, said MachineMetrics. In a 2020 benchmarking report, the company found an average machine utilization rate of only 24%, limiting manufacturers’ ability to meet demand.
“We are experiencing the single largest disruption to manufacturing and supply chain operations of our time,” said Eric Fogg, co-founder and chief customer officer of MachineMetrics. “Manufacturers simply don’t have the time or resources to rebuild from scratch. They need results right now.”
MachineMetrics’ said its Industrial Data Platform enables manufacturers to improve utilization and increase production without adding more machines. The Internet of Things (IoT) system automates the collection of data from equipment, said the company. It is intended to deliver actionable, machine data-driven insights for factory workers, helping organizations to reduce waste and optimize shop-floor productivity.
“What makes MachineMetrics unique is how easy we've made collecting data from these different robots and various manufacturing equipment types,” Bither told Robotics 24/7. “The foundation of the MachineMetrics platform is automating the capture and transformation, or contextualization, of production data.”
Atlhough MachineMetrics is a software company, it uses an edge device, small computer-based gateway as a vessel for its Edge Software Platform, which collects and analyzes data at the source, explained Bither. “The edge device is installed inside the electrical cabinet of the machine that can be mounted on the din rail, or inside the enclosure,” he said. “Machine data is collected through an Ethernet cable to the machine’s control, or via sensors and relays via an I/O module.”
“Many of our customers use MachineMetrics to solely collect and transform data from their assets,” Bither said. “Our data is completely portable through our REST and GraphQl APIs to integrate this machine data into existing business intelligence, custom workflows and reports, and integrations into other factory applications.”
Manufacturers need machine metrics to succeed
“MachineMetrics largely gathers data directly from the control of the machine, which is where the most critical data lies, bypassing the need for additional sensors and the complications involved with their installation to provide a scalable solution that can be self-installed by customers,” he said. “Connecting our edge device to your machine, or a network of machines is easy, and it takes just 20 minutes to connect to any automated manufacturing equipment. This capability enables consumable machine data and insights in a matter of minutes.”
MachineMetrics provides actionable data beyond utilization rates and predictive maintenance, and it connects to enterprise systems, said Bither.
Bill Bither, CEO, MachineMetrics
“To unlock the full potential of the digital factory, our platform seamlessly integrates machine data-driven insights with current shop-floor systems from product design, to production (ERP, MES), quality, maintenance (CMMS), and logistics—what we call 'harnessing the machine data digital thread'—to drive endless automation that digitizes factory processes,” he said. “In doing so, MachineMetrics removes additional manual elements of the manufacturing process as an operating system for autonomous factories.”
“For example, by connecting MachineMetrics to your CMMS [computerized maintenance management system], you can instantly transform your approach to maintaining machine ... with real-time data from your assets,” Bither said. “As MachineMetrics allows manufacturing teams to monitor the health of equipment in real time, the platform can use that data to automatically trigger maintenance activities in a CMMS based on asset usage, condition, alarm, or predictive algorithm.”
“Another example could be integration with a robot. When a machine is running low on materials, it will often trigger an alarm code, such as a bar feeder alarm,” he added. “Now, on its own, MachineMetrics can let the right person know at the right time know when this is happening so they can have the materials needed to re-feed and keep the machine running. In an autonomous factory, MachineMetrics could trigger an action by a robot that feeds the bar into the machine without human intervention.”
Does MachineMetrics process data in the cloud, and if so, what are the requirements for getting it from closed factory facilities?
“MachineMetrics does process data both on the edge and in the cloud,” Bither replied. “Once processed on the edge, the data is then instantly and securely streamed to the MachineMetrics Cloud Platform via Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or cellular communication. In the event that a factory has a closed network, we would focus on the cellular option. Software on the edge device is remotely updated over the air to ensure timely updates.”
Customization and connectivity
Bither said MachineMetrics' Edge Platform includes dozens of custom software adaptors to automatically unlock, map out, collect, and standardize available data points. These include internal sensors, machine status, modes, alarms, overrides, load, speeds, and feeds.
MachineMetrics also has protocols supporting plug-and-play connectivity for MTConnect, FANUC, OPC-UA, UMATI, Mitsubishi, Citizen, Haas, Heidenhain, Siemens Sinumerik, Ethernet IP, and Modbus, he said. In addition, MachineMetrics Edge supports digital and analog I/O for machines without a standard connectivity option.
“To provide a truly plug-and-play solution, the software runs on an inexpensive hardware device,” Bither said. “[It's] a small computer that MachineMetrics customers call 'The Little Green Box' that connects directly to any modern CNC machine tool control system via Ethernet port. Our edge platform can also be installed as a virtual machine on a local PC, where no gateway hardware is required.”
MachineMetrics said it has hundreds of customers, ranging from small contract manufacturers to some of the world’s largest OEMs. It said they use its platform on thousands of machines globally for remote visibility into real-time production, identify bottlenecks, predict machine failures, improve quality, and build workflows for automated operations.
Teradyne leads round
Teradyne led the funding round, with participation from Ridgeline Ventures and existing investors Tola Capital and Hyperplane. North Reading, Mass.-based Teradyne provides testing equipment and owns collaborative robot maker Universal Robots, autonomous mobile robot provider Mobile Industrial Robots, and heavy automated guided vehicle developer AutoGuide Mobile Robots.
“MachineMetrics’ rapid growth reflects the value and demand for its data collection and analytics solutions,” said Greg Smith, president of Teradyne’s Industrial Automation Group. “Our customers increasingly want to monitor the performance of their production machines to improve utilization and increase output.”
“MachineMetrics makes this easy with an innovative and simple solution that delivers a fast ROI,” he said. “The team’s vision aligns strongly with our larger industrial automation strategy, which focuses on equipping all manufacturers with accessible, reliable, and easy-to-use automation solutions.”
About the Author
Eugene Demaitre is editorial director of Robotics 24/7. Prior to joining Peerless Media, he was a senior editor at Robotics Business Review and The Robot Report. Demaitre has also worked for BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, and TechTarget. He has participated in numerous robotics-related webinars, podcasts, and events worldwide.
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